The recent Census had
shown that the already skewed infant sex ratio in India is only getting worse. There
are just 940.27 females per 1000 males in India
. Gender bias favouring
males is largely responsible for this. Neglect of girls and women resulting in
early death, female infanticide, antenatal sex determination and female
feticide are other major factors contributing to the unhealthy sex ratio.
Sex-selective abortion is believed to have
flourished ever since ultrasound machines became available widely, in the
1980s. The Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of
Misuse) Act was enacted by the Government in 1994 to fight this. The Act prohibits determination and disclosure of the sex of
foetus. It also prohibits any
advertisements relating to pre-natal determination of sex and prescribes
punishment for its contravention. In spite of the Act, India's sex
ratio at birth continued to fall.
However it isn't fair to blame it all on ultrasound
machines. Previous studies have shown that the skewed sex ratio in second
children was common even in the 1970s before ultrasound machines were freely
available. This definitely meant there were alternative methods.
stringent laws that forbade definitive
methods of sex selection like sex-selective abortions, mothers probably
resorted to other interventions.
found that the ratio of girls to boys was 720: 1000 in mothers with one
previous girl child.
also found that many mothers tend to use traditional medicines for sex
selection, in their subsequent pregnancies, especially if the previous child is
The medications used were previously found to contain hormones such as
testosterone, progesterone, and a natural steroid. The tendency to take
indigenous medication for sex selection in mothers with a previous girl child
is more than mothers with previous a previous boy.
However those taking such medication do
not seem to be helped according to expectations. Relying so much on the drugs
prevents them from resorting to techniques like antenatal sex determination and
sex selective abortions. Thus, contrary to the expectations, the sex ratio of
newborns of mothers taking traditional medicines was 928 girls to 1000 boys.
This was much higher compared to the overall ratio of 720 girls to 1000 boys in
mothers with one previous girl child.
It is definite that sex selection by human
manipulation is being practised in India on a large scale. However the exact
method used by parents to influence the sex of their children is yet not clear.
Ratio at Birth in India, Its Relation to Birth Order, Sex of Previous Children
and Use of Indigenous Medicine; Samiksha
Manchanda et al; PloS one